It’s an understatement to say that convertible drivers “like” their cars. They are usually madly in love with their convertible and the exhilarating feeling they get when driving with the top down.
However, that feeling can quickly change if you experience a serious problem with your folding roof like water ingress. If water manages to enter the vehicle’s cabin when the convertible roof is up, it can be a major nuisance that forces the occupants of the vehicle to sit in a damp and smelly cabin. Convertible water leaks can also cause serious damage to various electronic and mechanical components within the vehicle.
In this post, we are going to share warning signs that indicate you may have a convertible water leak. We’ll also explain how to stop different types of convertible water leaks.
Are you interested in having your convertible leaks repaired by a specialist?
›› See our water ingress service page for more information.
Identifying convertible water leaks
Most convertible water leaks typically will leave telltale signs, including:
- Water stains on upholstery
- A musty damp smell
- Rust on the inside of the vehicle or around electric and metal components within the roof system.
- Condensation and fogged up windows
- Obvious dripping sounds when driving or after rainfall
- Mildew on your upholstery
If you notice one or more of these warning signs, you should immediately take steps to find the source of the leak. The simplest way to confirm a leak is by spraying water from a garden hose over your vehicle for a few minutes. Then, turn off the hose and get in the car to look and listen for leaks. A word of caution — never use a high pressure washer on your convertible to test for leaks, your vehicle’s the seals are not built to withstand high pressure water.
Why is Water Coming into Vehicle?
The first and most important step of repairing a convertible water leak is to correctly diagnose the source of the leak. It should be noted that the location of water coming into the vehicle doesn’t always necessarily indicate that this is the area to start a repair — there may be another entry point from which water is traveling.
In some cases, it may be necessary to remove interior trims and panels to trace where water is running from. In those situations, it is usually worth obtaining help from a professional who specialises in convertible repairs.
Gathering Information About Convertible Water Ingress
Collect as much information as possible about how water is entering your vehicle. Does it enter as soon as it starts raining? Or does the vehicle need to be in the rain for hours before a leak becomes apparent?
You should also consider where the vehicle parked. If you have a steep driveway the water may be travelling through the vehicle before settling in a certain section.
Whilst water ingress into the cabin area causes the most nuisance, it’s important to check the entire vehicle for water. Look at the rear carpets and pay close attention to the boot area, as water ingress into the boot can cause a lot of damage. Lift carpets to check boot wells where the spare tyre is kept to look for signs of water, rust and calcium deposits.
Ask a friend or partner to sit in the vehicle whilst you water test the vehicle with a hose as this can sometimes make the diagnosis process faster.
Common Causes of Water Leaks to Convertible Roof Systems
We often see neglected cabriolets with malfunctioning roofs come into the workshop. The sad part is, most of the repairs that we perform on these vehicles could have been avoided if the owner regularly maintained and cared for their convertible roof.
By properly maintaining the folding roof on your cabriolet, you can avoid expensive repair bills and the inconvenience of bringing your car in for an extensive repair. Here are a few areas where you should be particularly vigilant about maintenance:
Door Seals – using existing seals
The design of door and window seals vary considerably from vehicle to vehicle – however they are all made from foam rubber with a sealed surface. When the roof, doors and windows are closed, the seal is compressed to make the cabin watertight.
Unfortunately, your vehicle’s seals will gradually accumulate grime and deteriorate, which can cause them to become unbonded from the paintwork. When this happens, the seals will need to be cleaned and rebonded onto to the vehicle. It is also prudent to treat an unbonded seal to rejuvenate and nourish it before reattaching it to the vehicle.
We often see vehicles with neglected seals in the workshop. However, we rarely need to replace them as they can be cleaned and rejuvenated. The only downside is that it does take some time to ensure seals are dirt free, dry and lubricated.
The most common materials that damage convertible seals include road dirt, tree debris and bird muck. By keeping these seals clean of these materials, you will extend their lifespan and greatly reduce the risk of a leak developing.
For your convertible’s seals to be watertight, both contact surfaces need to be clean – dirt particles can build up and this is where water can penetrate.
We recommend a lubricant called Krytox. Our technicians use it at the shop and find it to be far more effective than cheaper seal lubricants. If you are going to spend the time cleaning all the seals, you should use a quality product like Krytox to ensure the seals have their elasticity restored.
It’s important to clean your seals fully before applying a Krytox or another lubricant. Customers often mistakenly apply a lubricant before ensuring that their seals are clean and dry. Applying a lubricant over dirt will not have any benefit for you vehicle’s seals.
Seals – replacing with new
As rubber ages it dries, shrinks and cracks. If your vehicle’s rubber seals have any visible tears caused by old age, they will need to be completely replaced.
Old seals must be fully removed, including any adhesive that is in place. The adhesive on the new strip will only work when applied to a clean smooth surface. It is also essential that seals are properly aligned when placed on the vehicle. This can be a tricky task if you are not used to working with door and window seals, but our technicians are happy to help.
When water lands on your cabriolet, it is directed down channels to drains where it is dumped onto the road surface. Unfortunately, these drains can become blocked if they are not cleared regularly as a part of your servicing schedule.
The most common cause of drain blockages is road muck and tree litter. It can cause water to build up in the vehicle’s channels, particularly after heavy rainfall. This can lead to corrosion and water ingress.
Behind the door cards in your cabriolet is a plastic membrane which helps to prevent water ingress. This membrane can sometimes be torn or damaged, especially if speakers have been fitted or there has been a repair to part of the window mechanism. If water is soaking through onto the carpet from near the door, this may be worth checking.
If you have recently had a windscreen replaced – check that it was correctly fitted and that water is not penetrating the seals. A leaky windscreen should be removed and reinstalled by a qualified technician. If properly removed, it will not break and can be reused.
After time, convertible fabric can become a bit like an old waterproof coat – a little tired and not as water repellent as it was when new.
On a new roof the water should bead and run off. However, as the fabric becomes old, it becomes porous and water soaks through the fabric and headlining.
This can be resolved by installing a replacement fabric, which is a long term resolution and one that we would recommend. However, in some cases, the fabric can be simply be cleaned and dried before adding a water-repellant treatment. If you decide to go down this route, we can recommend a product called Renovo.
Be aware that any nicks or tears in your fabric will cause leaks and these cannot be remedied – a new fabric will be the answer. Fabric can also shrink overtime – get advice from a trimming company on this matter.
After the repair
Once the fault is diagnosed and the repair has been completed, it is important to test your car for water ingress once more. Carry out extensive water tests to ensure you have successfully addressed the problem.
If your vehicle became very wet while it had a leak, it will need to be dried out to eliminate the regeneration of condensation. Carpets can be vacuumed with a wet/dry appliance to draw and suck up the water. This is a task that is often made easier by removing the carpets from the car. A dehumidifier can also be placed inside the vehicle overnight to get it completely completely dry.
If we are enjoying a spell of warm weather, you can simply put the top down and go for a drive to dry it out. It’s a great way to blow out the cobwebs while simultaneously looking after your vehicle!
Have Your Convertible Roof Serviced
The most reliable way to care for your vehicle’s folding roof system is to have it regularly serviced by a professional. A skilled technician will ensure that your vehicle’s seals and mechanical components are in good working order. They will also be able to perform extensive water ingress testing to find the source of any leaks.
Cayman Autos offers clients an affordable annual roof service program which will help to prevent many of the common issues that lead to convertible water leaks. This package includes:
- Full inspection of all roof seals to check for debris and grime
- All convertible roof hinges and pivot points are re-greased and lubricated
- All hydraulic fluid levels are checked
- Drains are checked and cleared
Using this service will help your vehicle’s folding roof remain in good working order and stop leaks before they start.
Thanks for reading How To Stop Convertible Water Leaks? If you require some assistance from the team at Cayman Autos, Contact us today on 01737 761599 or visit us at 51 ORMSIDE WAY, REDHILL, SURREY, RH1 2LG. We have customers from across the UK, including Hampshire, Kent, the Midlands and North West.
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